The 41st annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - set to run April 23 through May 2 - is about much more than just music. Notice that the official name of the event includes the word "Heritage," this is a true celebration of culture, history, food, art and music that could only have sprouted from the fertile soil of New Orleans. And while the music programming shines a giant light on jazz, no genre is left untouched with headliners ranging from Widespread Panic to Aretha Franklin.
The JamBase editors have put together a Jazz Fest Survival Guide featuring 21 Must-See bands, a list of gastronomical delights found at the Fairgrounds, local restaurant suggestions, as well as a run down of late night shows (Weekend 1, Daze Between and Weekend 2), photo galleries and a few Fest Insider Tips.
21 MUST-SEE BANDS
Over the course of seven days on 11 stages, Jazz Fest will feature around 450 artists. This list is in no way meant to cover even a fraction of the amazing talent on display. The 21 bands highlighted here are designed to help you uncover a lesser-known great, local hero, or perhaps help you make a tough decision at a certain time slot. Instead of giving love to well known headliners we adore like The Allmans, Neville Brothers (who always close the final day in epic fashion), My Morning Jacket, Black Crowes, Anita Baker, The Dead Weather, Derek Trucks and Pearl Jam, we're focusing on three bands each day you might not be planning to see that are worthy of your attention. You can check out the entire Jazz Fest schedule here.
Friday, April 23
1. Dr. John & the Lower 911 :: 3:30 PM :: Gentilly Stage
| Dr. John|
Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr., aka The Night Tripper, aka Dr. John, is considered by many to be the most significant living New Orleans musician today. A master of traditional New Orleans R&B, swamp funk and voodoo-psychedelia, this is a set you don't want to miss on the first day of Fest.
2. Irma Thomas Tribute to Mahalia Jackson :: 4:40 PM :: Gospel Tent
Despite being gone nearly 40 years, Mahalia Jackson remains a pillar of the gospel world. The power, artistry and sheer personality of her work birthed the modern gospel movement that followed in her wake, and perhaps more importantly, continues to stir spirits and fuel faith on a daily basis. Not many 20th century musicians deserve a tribute more and there's simply no better candidate to pull off a spectacular homage than Ms. Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," who's mingling of blues grit, soulful fire and gospel inflection is exceedingly well suited to Jackson's catalog. And don't miss Irma Thomas set of her own material on Sunday, May 2, at 1:40 p.m. on the Acura Stage.
3. Rotary Downs :: 4:40 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
New Orleans has far more than one sound. Yes, funk, jazz and second line dominate, but there's also a fine rock scene bubbling under, including the increasingly excellent Rotary Downs, who merge Pavement, Bowie and other threads into something extremely catchy and all their own. Their new release, Cracked Maps & Blue Reports (JamBase review), shows they're armed with a pile of great new tunes, and their live show is an energetic, passionately played blast.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy
Saturday, April 24
1. Red Stick Ramblers :: 4:25 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
| Red Stick Ramblers|
A real Louisiana treasure, the Ramblers' swirl of classic western swing, Cajun and hot jazz music goes down real easy, which slightly obscures just how ridiculously together every aspect of their sound is - sweet (but not too sweet) harmonies, moaning fiddle, dancing guitars and a joie de vivre demeanor. Red Stick makes traditional music seem, well, less traditional and more immediately alive. If Buck Owens and Bob Wills were still with us they'd be at this set.
2. Treme Brass Band :: 12:25 PM :: Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
The Treme Brass Band is a traditional marching brass band from New Orleans' Treme neighborhood. The group features a shifting lineup of local legends that has included such stalwarts as trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, sousaphonist Kirk Joseph and trombonist Corey Henry, and is anchored by bass drummer Lionel Batiste and bandleader Benny Jones. This is the sound of New Orleans and there's a reason HBO has created the hit new show Treme about the 'hood these cats call home.
3. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes :: 11:20 AM :: Gentilly Stage
There's not too many more joyful, good time rockin' ways one could start their day on the Fairgrounds than with Johnny and his hard swinging bunch. With the feel of an old time rock 'n' soul revue (shrunk down to a few very talented cats), Sketch and the Dirty Notes play hard with a smiling dedication to YOUR enjoyment, whoever you might be.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Cochon de Lait Po-Boy (milk fed pig)
Sunday, April 25
1. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians
| Big Chief Monk Boudreaux|
4:35 PM :: Jazz & Heritage Stage
A living link to history, Monk Boudreaux is the Big Chief of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe, and when they roll onstage at Jazz Fest you can count on deep NOLA funk, hypnotic chants and ass-shaking R&B. You just can't get this shit anywhere but New Orleans.
2. Imagination Movers :: 1:25 PM :: Gentilly Stage
JamBase has keyboardist extraordinaire and NOLA know-it-all Robert Walter to thank for hipping us to this "child-centered rock band." Describing themselves as the "Beastie Boys meets Mr. Rogers," the Movers, according to Walter, put on some of the loudest, rowdiest gigs in New Orleans. A bold claim but a reliable source, and their studio work shows they've got chops and tunes to spare. Whether you're "with child" or not, this set could be a Sunday highlight.
3. Grayson Capps :: 3:00 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
Capps is a Southern singer-songwriter gem with the straight shootin' eye of Johnny Cash melded to the hobo philosophizing of Townes Van Zandt, hard time veracity of John Prine and the wicked humor of Loudon Wainwright III. Backed by his top-flight band The Stumpknockers, Capps is truly lethal. A longtime New Orleans chronicler, he'll be dishing up some of the finest, smartest roots rock going down at the Fairgrounds this year.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Crawfish Monica
Continue reading for JamBase's 2nd Weekend Must-See Band...